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Thread: Electric hand planer good enough for 2x4 and 2x6 construction?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2006

    Electric hand planer good enough for 2x4 and 2x6 construction?

    I’m looking for some advice on a planer/jointer solution for my woodworking. I would like to build my son a loft bed and I’ve purchased some plans for making one. It’s almost entirely 2x4 and 2x6 pine construction and a pretty simple build. I’m primarily a woodturner so most of my shop revolves around that and I own only a lathe, bandsaw, chop saw, circular saw, (no table saw.) I know I won’t be happy with the final product if I use lumber from the big box store and don’t mill it to some extent as I would like to bed to look as “furniture grade” as I can. What solution would you recommend to plane/joint the dimensional lumber so all my lap joints look good and the final product looks professional? I’m considering picking up an electric hand planer to true up the store bought lumber. Will this be sufficient or do I need to invest in something larger and more substantial?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Toronto Ontario
    Hi Aaron, there are going to be a couple of issue.

    1) the lumber you buy will not be dry enough to make furniture out of, if you're buying framing lumber

    2) once dried, lumber will require jointing and planning. Framing lumber in my experience becomes so twisted and warped as to be useless.

    Since you're a turner, it may be most effective from a cost and result perspective to purchase pine from a supplier of furniture grade wood and have them joint and plane it.

    regards, Rod.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    The Little Tennessee River near Knoxville.
    Just as a side note, furniture grade pine is more expensive than oak and depending on the market, sometimes more expensive than mahogany.
    Retired, living and cruising full-time on my boat.
    Currently on the Little Tennessee River near Knoxville

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Lake Gaston, Henrico, NC
    Also, blade width on these are typically 3-1/4", which will not even cover the width of a 2x4 in one pass. Taking more than one pass to cover the width of any board will leave ridges along the edges of the planer blades. It's just not the tool to do the job that you are thinking it will.

  5. #5
    I agree with above 2x construction is good for a lot of things but not furniture unless its going to be a temporary solution. I would pick up some type of hardwood and bring it to a woodworking school that has hourly rates for open shop use about 23$ an hour by me. Or buy it S4S

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Kansas City
    jointing and planing are two different things. I don't think you could joint with a hand planer because its bed is not long enough to establish a flat surface over a length. IMO.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Stone Mountain, GA
    Construction lumber will work fine for a loft bed, you don't need to go out and get Honduran Mahogany for this. But, you need to be picky on the boards you buy, straightness is key, and I would recommend buying 2x12s and ripping the edges off into the 2x4 or 2x6 sections, discarding the centers. You can use your bandsaw or circ saw with edge guide for the ripping. 2x12s are cut from bigger, straighter trees so have a bit tighter growth rings and less defects. Ripping them will also help get rid of the roundover they put on all construction lumber. Removing that roundover is very important, both for looks and for being able to mark out joinery.

    If you have time, stack and sticker your rough-cut parts for a few weeks at least. Construction lumber is a bit wet still (only partially kiln dried) and it does shrink and move a bit as it completes the air drying process.

    Regarding handheld electric planers, they will only be useful on the edges, and even then most of them are not super accurate. For face milling, you can take out some high spots with them but if you try to mill the whole face you'll get grooves that will need to be taken out with something else.

    Short of buying a jointer and planer, the way I would do this is with a hand plane. They work very well but there is a learning curve for sharpening and using them, and knotty pine/fir is not so fun to plane for a beginner. You could potentially build a router sled, but you didn;t say you had a router. If none of that appeals, then I think you are down to either taking your parts somewhere else for milling, or just making sure you buy very straight lumber, and keep it stacked and stickered until acclimated.

  8. #8
    Going to descent a bit with some of the previous comments.

    First, my father has made a number of pieces of furniture from framing lumber. He did not joint or plane the boards, and in some cases didn't even sand enough to remove the various stamps. It's not museum quality furniture, but they're not warped, twisted, or otherwise deformed. Naturally you're going to want to be careful with moisture count, so bring a meter, pay attention to the grain, and go to an indoor lumber yard. I believe he sourced all his lumber for various big box stores, though some of it is so old those stores have since closed.
    Second, I've bought furniture grade Eastern Pine from a couple of sawyers here locally (Ohio midwest), and paid $2.50-$3.00 a board foot. The biggest issue was finding a place that carried it.

    Aaron, you might consider a hand plane or two, or do what my father did and not worry about it.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    So Cal
    I also think you should pass on construction lumber. Itís just too wet. Not only will it warp and twist when it dries some pieces might weep sap.
    Klin dried popler is my suggestion.

  10. #10
    I agree with everything said. IMO a belt sander would be a better tool to surface than a planer if dealing with knotty wood.

    That said, the issue you're going to have with joinery is slight thickness variations. But this can be dealt with by custom making each joint.

    Sorry but I disagree re: don't use construction lumber. It can be done if you start with the straightest lumber you can find, with the least number of knots, and sticker it for a couple months for additional drying.
    Last edited by Robert Engel; 04-17-2019 at 9:57 AM.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Okotoks AB
    If using construction lumber, buy at least double what you'll need, let it sit & dry for a few months & then pick out the straightest boards. Getting 2x12's & cutting them down is an excellent suggestion.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    The type of electric hand planer tool you mention is fine for adjusting door fit and things like that, but they are not designed for processing lumber for furniture projects like you describe. You'e be better off with a 12" planer and using a sled for flattening (jointing) one side before you bring the stock to thickness.

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  13. #13
    I have lots of stuff made from kiln dried pine from box stores none of which has twisted and warped. I have a 36x96 work bench that was 5 years ago out straight 4x4 2x6 2x4 pine and is just as good today as it was 5 years ago. Now with that said. Pick straight boards as you can. I usually rip the round edges off but difficult to accomplish without a table saw.

  14. #14
    You will be hard pressed to plane that lumber with an electric hand plane.

    Anoyher option based on what you already have would be to make a jig for your circular saw and cut off the rounded edges. Something like this:


    Just have the plywood wood cut at the box store.

    Mark me down as another person who has used construction grade lumber for furniture, albeit mostly painted furniture. I’ve used both southern yellow pine and the cheap aspen/fir/whatever without issue. I did place a clear finish on a construction lumber kitchen table built for my friends who have three boys and it has survived them for 8 years.
    Last edited by Zach Dorsch; 04-17-2019 at 5:18 PM. Reason: Picture

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Dickinson, Texas
    Blog Entries
    You really need a Jet or Powermatic Jointer. Either can do the job.

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